I’ve just got back from France, a trip that I longed for for a lot of time. As I was strolling through Paris and other places in France – separate story to come – I realised what big of an idiot I was for not learning for my French classes during highschool.
As a foreign languages graduate with a bachelor in both Dutch and English, I feel very comfortable in both English-speaking countries (DOH!) and German (and the likes) speaking countries. There are two reasons for that: 1. With my average level of Dutch I can make myself understood and understand basic German and 2. Most of the Germanic countries speak English very well.
The adventures begin when I go to a latin speaking country: Italy or France so far.
On one hand everything sounds very familiar due the fact that Romanian, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish have Latin as their common ancestor. On the other hand, they are freaking foreign languages in which I am unable to express myself and end up making some animal like kind of sounds instead of articulating a word. Very frustrating.
In Italy I talk Spanish. That’s not because I had any lessons of Spanish but because of TELENOVELAS. The funny part is that whenever I open my mouth to talk, I actually believe I speak Italian. I’m lucky Italians do understand Spanish easily.
OR better yet! I mix and match all the languages that I know and ask directions like this:
‘Hello! Con la machina a Brolio, se puede?’
Most of the time in Italy, I ask in English, they answer in Italian with some elaborate hand gestures. We have an understanding.
In France things are somewhat weirder. Not easier or harder but weirder as I can conclude after roaming Paris and France for a week.
I studied French in middle school and high school so that’s 8 years of studying French. Did I learn anything? NO! My 16 years old self thought: I know English very well, what do I need French for? Uhm…bad call, 16 year old Alexandra! Now I terribly regret missing the opportunity.
Besides being able to read and understand written French and say some simple phrases I don’t do French .
In addition to this, during my French trip, my brain had his own kind of logic going on. Whenever someone talked to me in French my first impulse was to answer in Dutch. Yes…WTF brain?!?
This is why things like this happened: Mademoiselle, voulez-vous du sucre pur votre cafe? Ja, bedankt*! No, no! MERCI! Oui, Oui met* sucre! <FACEPALM> With sugar please, thank you!
Or to demonstrate my totally embarrassing level of French: upon leaving a souvenir shop, the shopkeeper told me ‘au revoir!’ as per the habit. My answer: Aujourd’hui! (I meant to say ‘au revoir’). My brother almost cried his eyes out laughing.
Otherwise ‘Je ne parle pas francais!’ was my (useless) best friend in France. The French don’t care that you don’t speak French. And that’s that! Au revoir!